The Great Recession

Downtown playwrights in crisis.

  • CRIB DEATH Sarah Ellen Stephens contemplates infanticide in Classic Kitchen...

CRIB DEATH Sarah Ellen Stephens contemplates infanticide in Classic Kitchen...

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

In his recent TONY interview, the monologuist Mike Daisey bemoaned the institutional slowness of American theater, and used the scarcity of responses to the financial crisis as an example of this problem. So the Flea Theatre’s Jim Simpson should be congratulated for corralling six of the city’s best rising playwrights to tackle the subject head-on in The Great Recession, a collection of playlets (each 15 to 20 minutes long) performed by three dozen members of the Bats, the Flea’s below-the-radar acting company.

The show begins strongly with three shorts about the ethical effects of having or lacking money: Adam Rapp’s agitprop sketch Classic Kitchen Timer stages a demented game show in which impoverished people can win thousands of dollars in exchange for murdering a baby; Itamar Moses’s Fucked adroitly captures the dynamics between a young woman and her trust-fund boyfriend; and Thomas Bradshaw’s amusing New York Living naughtily runs a red light at the intersection between sex and real estate. The final three pieces are less accomplished. Erin Courtney’s Severed is a blah throwaway about unemployment, and Will Eno’s Unum desultorily tracks a dollar bill through various interlocked hands; sandwiched between them is Sheila Callaghan’s Recess, an intermittently inventive postapocalyptic fantasia that suggests an unholy union of Sarah Kane’s Blasted and some of Rapp’s skankier work (such as Faster and Finer Noble Gases). Perhaps such unevenness is the cost of rapid response in the theater. But if this topical anthology isn’t always great, at least it is not recessive.—Adam Feldman

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Flea Theatre. By various authors and directors. With ensemble cast. 1hr 55mins. One intermission.